Game 7 Preview: Army
Georgia State has passed the halfway mark of the 2019 season, coming into the last six games of the season at 4-2. The first six games had everything – the highs of the UpseT of Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, the lows of demoralizing back-to-back losses at Western Michigan and Texas State and, above all, the emergence of a bonafide offensive juggernaut under new coordinator Brad Glenn. The team, though, faces an entirely unique threat on Saturday, as the option offense of Army (3-3) comes to Georgia State Stadium for the Panthers’ final non-conference game of the season.
Army, like its fellow service academies at the FBS level, runs a form of the triple option offense. After facing the vertical attack of Arkansas State and the quick pass/spread run scheme of Coastal Carolina, a totally different beast awaits the Panther defense. Head coach Jeff Monken has run this flexbone offense his whole coaching career, making his bones in college football under flexbone maestro Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. He was the head coach at Southern from 2010-2013, so he – along with other members of the Army staff – has serious Georgia ties, making this something of a homecoming.
This game will be a test for the rushing defense of Georgia State, which has ticked up in recent weeks. After a sievelike performance at WMU (450 yards rushing allowed) and another so-so outing at Texas State (221 yards allowed), the Panthers clamped down on the run in their recent wins over Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina, allowing 115 and 105 on the ground respectively. Army comes into this one in poor form, dropping their last two games to Tulane and Western Kentucky to fall to 3-3. The WKU game in particular was a bottoming-out of sorts – with the Black Knights being out-rushed 225-137. Coming off of back-to-back 10-win seasons but facing the prospect of a losing record with a loss Saturday, Army will be in full-on “Prove it” mode. Eye discipline and sound assignment football will be imperative to stopping the Army rushing attack helmed by senior quarterback Kelvin Hopkins.
On offense, Georgia State is going to look to keep the run game churning. After consecutive weeks breaking the school record for rushing yards, the Panther offense is establishing its identity as a run-first, run-often, run-well offense. Western Kentucky’s success running the ball against Army will be of some encouragement to Georgia State, as the Hilltoppers are a poor rushing team among the FBS ranks – ranked 110th with 118 rushing yards per game. The Panthers enter Saturday at number 8 in the same category, rushing for 253 yards a game. If GSU comes in with the same high-octane run game they had in the last two games, it may not matter how well their defense does against the Black Knights’ option offense.
The last factor in this game is the weather. Forecasts are just that – forecasts – but the current projections show a heavy dose of rain hitting the Atlanta area on Saturday. If these weather models hold true, this game could turn into an ugly one. Any and all of the above points could become moot in torrential rain and the game could just come down to who handles the elements better. Both teams love running the ball so any inclement weather might not change the overall gameplans, but the rain will make good execution even more crucial to victory.
However the weather is, each team needs this win for very different reasons. For Army, a loss moves them to among the losing and their path to a winning season and a bowl game gets tighter, especially with big rivalry games versus Air Force and Navy still looming large. With a win, Georgia State moves one win away from bowl eligibility with five games to go, moves to 3-0 at home and makes it three wins in a row – and a win over a marquee name like Army would do a lot to cement to the college football world how real this team is.